It’s been less than a week since I cut all my hair off but there are so many things I could mention about the experience so far.
Let’s start with the things people have said:
- One person told me I was going to be cold.
- One said that I didn’t go extreme enough.
- Someone said everyone would think I was sick and that I would scare my children.
- One person warned me that people could think I was a neo-Nazi.
- Some people have avoided the topic altogether or very visibly have pretended they didn’t notice (the latter was someone at work).
- Some have leaned in, concern on their faces, asking, “You are okay, right?”
- There has been a lot of lament in the form of “Oh, your beautiful hair!”
- But also a “All you Redemption girls are so pretty.”
- And I did have an old friend text that I was “one badass lady.”
So, over all, it’s been colorful.
One thing I’ve noticed is that the majority of people my age think that the idea of buzzing all one’s hair off to make a statement is awesome, while people who are older or wealthier or have more white collar jobs find it confusing, unnerving, or just plain wrong. This isn’t across the board and I don’t want to make a bunch of assumptions as to why, it’s just something I’ve noticed and found interesting.
Something else I’ve been thinking about this week is how this topic is covered in film and tv. Just off the top of my head (heh!), here are most of the ways I’ve seen it portrayed:
- Women buzz their hair when they’ve suffered a psychotic break. (Girl Interrupted)
- Women lose their hair to cancer. (Grey’s Anatomy)
- Women have their hair buzzed off without their permission as a form of torture or imprisonment or subjugation, times when they are meant to be belittled and called worthless (like in Holocaust films or V For Vendetta).
- Women have their hair buzzed off intentionally as a symbol of the giving up of individual identity, as one would when joining the army. (G.I. Jane)
- And even when it’s not total hair loss and just the act of cutting one’s hair short it is often associated with the loss of beauty or trying to disguise oneself as a man (Joan of Arc, Rapunzel, Mulan, Anne With An E, and many others)
Again, I don’t want to make a bunch of assumptions or draw hasty conclusions so I’ll let that one sit for a while for contemplation.
Here’s the crux of all this. So often a woman’s appearance is seen as simultaneously a way to measure her worth (to her advantage or disadvantage) and a weapon (one that can hurt others or make her a victim). I have felt that throughout my life, and in response I want my fuzzy buzzed head to be a symbol of empowerment; not a haughty or angry empowerment but a grounded and calm one. And I think one of the few examples I get of this – since I’m not getting it from the older generation or from media – is when I go up to Holy Cross Monastery in New York.
Holy Cross is the home of a bunch of male monks and they don’t have buzzed heads, BUT they do have a big guest house and every time I visit I meet women from all over. Often, these women are on track to being ordained, or they’re nuns, or they’re high ranking leaders in their denominations, and sometimes they have all their hair cut off.
I remember one woman who visited specifically because she was scheduled to lead Mass. At Holy Cross there are five services a day, but Mass is the only one that contains a full sermon/teaching and communion, both led by an individual instead of all the monks in unison. And it was impressive to see this tall, crop-haired woman in her robes leading a room full of holy men and guests toward a greater understanding of God. She gazed heavenward and raised her hands in blessing and she almost radiated with the presence of God, as though she were the Holy Spirit itself. This was a person of gravitas and strength and love and serenity. This was a person of beauty.
I want to be like her.